Updated: Aug 26, 2019
On this evening June 30th, seven years ago at this very moment, I brought to an open the most challenging event I will ever host - the celebration of life for my sixteen year old son, Asher. At the moment I welcomed the guests, it had been exactly sixteen weeks since he had been removed from life support and his heart made it's final beat - on Saturday, March 10th, 2012 at 6:19pm.
Four days earlier, Asher had suffered a panic attack that led him to make an attempt on his life. Despite heroic efforts, Asher could not survive his injury and immediately became a candidate for organ donation. He remained on life support for four days as his body was readied for the process. On March 11th, 2012, both of Asher's kidneys were successfully transplanted into two men from Eastern Washington.
When he died I was hit with so many decisions to be made and an instant pressure to begin planning his memorial service. I was immediately resistant to the idea of any traditional timeline or location. I met with some resistance as people remain tied to the idea that a memorial service provides closure, but I knew innately that there would be no closure following Asher's celebration and stuck to my guns: Asher was an extraordinary person who deserved an extraordinary celebration and extraordinary celebrations take time. Thankfully I was forgiven for going off script once everyone experienced the unforgettable memorial I created for my beautiful boy.
It goes without saying that the loss of my only child was utterly and completely devastating. Once the celebration was over, I lost my sense of self and direction. I was in survival mode. Before Asher died, I was working one of my dream jobs as a personal professional photographer for a long list of lovely clients. After he died I knew it would be impossible to summon the kind of physical and creative energy required to create good family photography. I spent all of my time focused on just trying to survive. It wasn't until late 2014 that I had the energy to take on any kind of work.
I always had a dream of having a little shop filled with vintage, upcycled, recycled and rejuvenated home decor. When I was offered a space in a local antiques market, I could not resist and for a few years I worked through my grief by focusing all of my attention on my little shop, Eclecdecor. My little hobby-job, or "jobby" as I called it, was a helpful outlet for expressing my creativity and it always brought joy to find or make something I knew would be a unique addition to someone's home!
Eventually bringing home carloads of treasures every weekend took a toll on our living space and our sanity! I closed the shop and once I purged the remains of it, I set about trying to figure out what was next for me. This ended up being a pretty dark period in my grief process. I still didn't feel like I knew who I was after losing Asher - how was I supposed to figure out my next direction?
I scanned the job listings but nothing spoke to me and, approaching fifty, I suddenly and surprisingly felt unqualified for a lot of jobs. I had one last dream idea in mind - event planning, and more specifically, event planning for end-of-life celebrations. I had been part of many grief support group discussions where dissatisfaction with the traditional funeral was often a topic that left me feeling sad. Pairing my grief group experience with event planning - one of my natural talents and something I enjoy very much- seemed like a brilliant and timely idea, but I just didn't know if I had it in me to start and maintain another business. For some time, I had a sense that I've felt more than once in my life - that I'd not yet had the experience I needed to have to point me in the direction I needed to go.
That experience came at the beginning of February 2019 when I learned that Asher's father Ric had died. Because he was Asher's father and it's something I would have done if Asher was alive, I volunteered to plan and execute his celebration of life. As I put together the elements I started to feel like I had stepped onto the right path. I have learned to recognize the gifts that the dead leave behind for us and I believe the opportunity to plan his memorial was Ric's parting gift to me, as he often said about my talents "everything she touches turns to gold." By the time of Ric's memorial celebration two months later, I had decided to take the plunge and a few days later I registered the business name Epic Memorials - a nod to one of Asher's often used adjectives.
Here I am today, seven years after Asher's celebration of life, launching a new and innovative business that was borne of the experience of planning his memorial and then his father's. Today I am bringing together the skills I've gained in my previous dream jobs and putting them together in my new endeavor- Epic Memorials. During the darkest days after Asher died, the notion of "triumph over tragedy" would sometimes float through my mind. It sounded like something I should aim for but I had no idea what that would even look like and certainly had no energy to make it happen. Seven years later, as I launch the services offered by Epic Memorials to my community, it feels like I'm getting there. Thanks for being part of day one.